Police launch probe into drone sightings

The Kerala Police were investigating the sighting of what appeared to be a drone in two coastal locations in the capital early Friday.

Investigators said they had located no drone so far and received no clues as to who flew it, if at all, and for what purpose.

A night patrol team had spotted what they reckoned to be an unmanned aerial vehicle near Kovalam. A few minutes later, paramilitary personnel guarding the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) reportedly saw a drone outside the perimeter of the strategic facility.

Minor alarm

Television channels raised a minor alarm in the morning pointing out that the spotting of the unidentified aerial intruder came a month barely after the IAF bombing of targets inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) in retaliation for the Pulwama attack.

Additional Director General of Police, South Zone, Manoj Abraham, told The Hindu that there appeared to be no reason for panic. The sightings were within 12 km of each other and the suspected drone had not breached restricted airspace. He said it could have been an inexpensive toy flown by some local enthusiast and hobbyist.

The flier could have lost control of the drone after it wandered out of the radio range of its remote guidance system. The aerial vehicle appeared to have gone off course and crash-landed somewhere in Thumpa locality possibly after its batteries ran out.

Localities charted

Mr. Abraham said it was unlikely that anyone would launch a drone for low-level reconnaissance in the dead of the night. Moreover, web mapping services such as Google Maps have charted the localities over which the drone appeared in minute detail.

However, the ADGP said drones could pose a danger to civil aviation if they wandered by on purpose or accidentally into the flight path of commercial aircraft as they approached or took off from airports. Hence, the police were viewing the sightings with due seriousness.

He also said the police would attempt to regulate the use of drones, which had proliferated considerably. The law enforcement was in consultation with other agencies to find out the existing regulations, if any, regarding the deployment of drones by civilians or private entities, including their mandated ceiling.

No radar activity

Another officer privy to classified information said that the headquarters of the Southern Air Command at Aakulam had not detected any unusual radar activity or spotted any aerial interlopers on Friday.

He said the Southern Peninsula was well covered by an integrated network of civilian and military radars. However, low-flying drones with minimal radar signature were difficult to detect or track.


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